Mask mandates, let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.

Tonight life changed again. Many families were excited by the news, many were upset. Mask mandates changed in my county and you see both sides of the issue are either angry and calling it child abuse, others are relieved by the news saying finally someone cares about people. Knowing people on both sides of this argument I can tell you this post isn’t about the merits of wearing a mask or not wearing a mask. What I am struck by today is how the news today seems to have such strong response from everyone. My thought today is why do we always go to the extreme in our words about others.

Recently I have noticed more and more that we all seem to use language that attacks people in as strong a way as possible. If you don’t like masks you are murdering people and you don’t care about my loved one. If you are for masks you are a child abuser… We seem to want to go the extremes when it comes to attacking those on the other side of an argument. This isn’t just about masks. We attack people about race, politics, parenting styles, and faith. These days extreme language is everywhere. Maybe we need to rethink how we speak and comment to each other. Maybe sometimes we need to turn down the heat not escalate the situation.

I don’t know about you but for me recently I feel like words are just dividing us. Our anger towards others isn’t helping us have any sort of unity in the spirit. Yes we have things to talk about. Yes we can have passion for our point of view. Yes their is a right and a wrong. Just because someone sees the world differently doesn’t mean they are evil. That is a truth we all need to grapple with.

Maybe today as you go to bed angry about others views or mandates or something else, you should stop and avoid the name calling, the over simplification of the others points and listen, reflect and pray for those who see the world differently. Maybe tonight you will pray for that neighbor, friend or coworker who has said mean things to you and offer forgiveness either to them or in prayer. Maybe we can find the right words to speak with each other tomorrow. Maybe tonight we can turn the temperature on our conversations down a bit and find peace with each other.

I don’t know about you but I am ready for a world with less conflict. A world where people can use words to ask questions, understand, and hope together. Maybe for our kids we can show some restraint in see the good God is doing in others. Be passionate about your point of view but speak the truth in love for your neighbor.

19 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. 21 Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.

22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25 But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.

26 If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. 27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

James 1:19-27 ESV

Lessons from a Mission trip: Everyone needs a site coach

Group Mission trips, over the years have taught me many lessons about my faith and life. I learn from students, adults, and staff that I get the pleasure of serving with for the week. It is an intensive week of service that makes me slow down and listen to what God is doing in and around me. Over the next couple of weeks I am going to be writing about things I learned this year.

I want to tell you that this week challenged me in ways I haven’t experienced in a lot of years. I had the privilege of meeting and serving a wonderful resident named Ellen. She was a great faithful woman who had a hard time getting around. She needed a wheel chair ramp so she could get up and down to her home and bring in her groceries. So on Monday we went to work. Things were going well. We got the previous steps out of the way and ripped out bushes in less than 10 minutes. I had a student on my crew who was a hurricane of energy. I thought to myself, we will bust this thing out in a couple days. I was excited for an amazing week. Then Tuesday came. We started digging holes with the post hole digger because the auger hadn’t arrived yet. We dug for 5 hours to make our first 6 holes in hard clay. The Auger arrived (yeah) to finish the last 10. Wow I thought now we are moving. This is all going to be great. Two days of things going right.

Then Wednesday and Thursday happened. Many of the holes we had dug were not straight. I wasn’t paying enough attention to the details and well we had to pull out shovels and post hole diggers to get the holes lined up Wednesday. Thursday was probably the hardest day I have had on a worksite in my 17 years of Work Camps. We as a team made so many mistakes that the whole day was spent screwing in things and then removing them because we messed up. I removed and installed 12 lag bolts. Holes had to be moved again. one of the platforms moved and had to be put back. By the end of the day we had a broken post hole digger and I was beyond frustrated. I took my crew and another back and thought I will need to go back out so I can cement the last posts. Then it started raining, and I couldn’t go back out.

I was so broken that afternoon that I believed that this would be the first time is 17 years that I wouldn’t finish a project. Ellen this woman who I promised to build a ramp for would be let down. I was so frustrated I took it out on a few students who I yelled at over reacting to something they did and then went back to seek their forgiveness. It was a rough day.

The next morning I was getting breakfast and I saw my site coach. These are the red shirt people who are there to help you get your project done and figure out solutions. They are amazing people who go from site to site helping people problem solve. Jeff said to me “So did you get the posts cemented in?” I said “No we didn’t because of issues and rain, and I said their is no way we are going to get it done today.” That is when he did something that changed me this week. He looked me right in the eyes, and smiled, a smile I had seen all week. He said Steve I guarantee we will get it done today I promise you. It was what I needed in that moment. His confidence in what Jesus could do in this moment is what I needed to push with my crew and, another who would join us, and get it done.

For me in that moment Jeff was Jesus. He may never know it, but he had a profound impact on me this week. I don’t know about you, but maybe you are in a place where you feel you can’t keep going and everything you thought you know is falling apart. Maybe it is your marriage or your faith, or your job, or whatever, but you don’t think you can keep going. I pray God brings you a site coach to be Jesus in your life. A site coach like Jeff who walks along side you and picks you up in the hard days. We all need people in our lives who will be Jesus when we need them.

We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.” For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus.

Romans 15:1-5 ESV

Instead of responding in anger maybe we need to listen.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

I don’t know what to say. I really don’t know what to say to my kids or to the youth and families that I work with. For those of you who know me, know I am not normally at a loss for words. Today as I watched the events unfold at the capitol I was saddened, shocked and disturbed. What was more shocking to me was the number of posts on facebook about sticking it to people we disagree with politically. Comments like you didn’t speak out this summer when their were riots or you spoke out then and aren’t speaking out now or some other forms of attack on people we disagree with politically. It was ugly and hurtful all around. So how do I talk with my kids and families about what is happening? How should I as a Christian leader respond to this crisis in our world?

I still don’t know for sure? I don’t know if responding to every hateful or angry person on my feed is helpful. My guess it that it isn’t. In fact I think today we need stop and listen not respond. Listen to what God would have us do. Listen to how God is speaking in our lives. Most importantly listen to those around us and have empathy and compassion to those who are hurting on both side. Yes speak against violence in the streets or in the capitol but listen to people.

Today as I went through my day I had the opportunity to sit a listen to a few different people about different situations in their lives. People who in different simple conversations shared their lives. They shared about how they are feeling or how they are doing. Listening allowed me to hear them. So often we are quick to speak and share our thoughts but are we slow to listen. Too often we want to have answers or we want to speak up, but today I was reminded we need to listen more and talk less.

So what I am sharing with my kids and what I sharing with you that are reading this, we live in a world that is angry. In a nation that wants to speak and be heard, maybe we as Christians should stop and listen. Stop and be the hands and feet of Jesus. Let us be peace makers and people of hope. Today is Epiphany. The day we remember that God wants all people to know of his love for the world. Maybe today we can share Jesus with people just by listening and offering peace.

19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. 21 Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. 22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do. 26 Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. 27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

James 1:19-27

Voting is not the most important thing you can do today.

Most of us will post on social media that we have voted. This is a very important part of our country. In fact it might be the most important thing we do as citizen of this nation today. It is integral part of helping shape our nation. But it is not the most important thing you can do today.

The most important thing you can do today is love your neighbor. This is in fact the most important thing you do everyday. If all you ever did was vote you would miss out on the ways we can serve those around us. Jesus never said to vote. In fact Jesus avoided the politics of the day at every turn. He did however call all of us as Christian to love our God and love our neighbor. That might start with your vote but it shouldn’t end there.

Our part is to be kind to our neighbors who are sad at the outcome of an election. To help our neighbor who is struggling with illness. To help our neighbor who is hurting at the loss of a loved one or hurting because they lost their job. When I serve my neighbor, I am serving my lord. The one who first served me. So today go out and vote but don’t forget to serve those in need today. It is the most important thing we do everyday.

28 And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” 29 Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 32 And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. 33 And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34 And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And after that no one dared to ask him any more questions.

Mark 12:28-34 ESV